Secrets Of British Royal Family Visits To Other Countries Revealed

If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's revelations in recent years are anything to go by, being a British royal is hardly a walk in the park. An institution founded and maintained by tradition, the British monarchy thrives on strict rules and protocols, which all members are required to follow. But while some of these rules are understandable, a few others could strike you as odd. "It's wrapped up in history and tradition, but it's also practical, universal and there to avoid embarrassment," David Miller, a royal etiquette expert, told BBC News.

For instance, the only reason you would be unlikely to catch Prince William snuggling up to Kate Middleton in public is because PDA is actually not encouraged among royals, according to Harper's Bazaar. While there are no formal rules surrounding this, etiquette expert Myka Meier previously told People that royal members are expected to use their discretion in public. "The royals often adjust PDA to mirror the formality of the event they are attending. At a somber or more formal event, we are less likely to see PDA than at a casual event where it would be deemed more fitting," she added.

Outside of PDA however, royal members also have strict traveling rules which they live by (or at least they try to live by). From travel fashion protocols to luggage organization systems, here are some secret rules royals have to follow when traveling to other countries.

The reigning monarch does not need a British passport

Nothing speaks royal privilege like traveling without ever needing a passport, albeit this rule is restricted to the reigning monarch alone. Despite holding the record as the most traveled monarch in the world, Queen Elizabeth II did not have need for a British passport. This is because, according to the royal family's official website, passports in the U.K. were issued in the queen's name, hence making it irrelevant for her to have one. "All other members of the Royal Family, including The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales, have passports," the statement added. 

Upon King Charles' ascension to the throne however, he, too, will no longer need a British passport to travel overseas, given that all passports are now issued in his name. Per Royal Central, new passports issued out to British citizens in Charles' name will read: "His Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of His Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary." Similarly, Charles is allowed to drive in the U.K. without a driver's license, as all licenses are issued in the reigning monarch's name as well.

Like every other person though, the monarch must go through immigration checks when traveling in and out of Britain. 

Royal heirs shouldn't fly in the same plane

An average parent would love to travel with their kids in the same airplane, but for the royal family, things are a tad different. According to Cosmopolitan, the British monarchy has an unspoken rule that forbids two royal heirs from traveling in the same plane. This, according to the outlet, is a measure taken to protect the royal lineage and prevent a constitutional crisis in the case of a fatal crash. Though this rule has been flouted several times in the past, the monarch is still able to enforce it when necessary. "While there is no official rule on this, and royal heirs have travelled together in the past, it is something that the Queen has the final say on," a source told the BBC in 2014. 

And while this rule seemingly only affects direct heirs to the throne, Prince Harry, who is fifth in line, is apparently also not allowed to fly on the same plane as his older brother, Prince William. Per Express, this is because all of William's children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis — are still minors and unable to rule until they turn 18. Therefore, if anything were to happen to King Charles and William, Harry would step in as regent until George is old enough to ascend the throne.

Royals are expected to pack a black outfit for every trip

Amongst the very many fashion rules that exist in the British royal family, one stands out — they must pack a black outfit for every overseas trip. This rule seeks to ensure traveling royals would be able to be appropriately dressed in case a member of the royal family dies while they are away.

Though now considered a strict rule, such considerations did not exist prior to the late Queen Elizabeth's ascension to the throne. In fact, she was the one who put the rule in place to help her family avoid the same situation she found herself in. When her father, King George VI, died in 1952, Elizabeth was in Kenya and had not brought a black outfit with her. According to Metro, this resulted in the queen remaining on the plane once she landed back in the U.K. until a suitable outfit was delivered to her. And the death of George wasn't the only time this rule came into play. When Princess Diana's father, Lord Spencer, died, she was abroad. Thankfully, she followed the queen's rule and had a black outfit to wear upon her return to the U.K., The Sun reported. 

This rule is also not only restricted to members of the royal family. British broadcasters (especially those with the BBC) are expected to always have a black outfit ready to wear in the sad event that a senior member of the royal family suddenly dies. 

They must show respect for their host country's culture

When traveling outside of the United Kingdom, royal family members are expected to show respect for their host country's culture and tradition in many different areas, including fashion. "Adhering to dress codes means that for some countries hemlines, sleeve-lengths, and necklines need to be considered," royal biographer Marcia Moody wrote in an essay for Town & Country. "Men may need tie pins, medals, sashes, and handkerchiefs. Women often pay respect to the country with a national flower or symbol incorporated into their clothing. Symbolic colors are chosen, significant jewelry decided upon." As such, it is not uncommon to find the royals' choice of clothing reflecting where they are. 

Another way royals are expected to impress and show respect to their host country is by learning basic greetings in the host country's language. If they don't already speak the language, palace aids will come to their rescue. "The internal palace aids will always be on hand to prepare each royal before an important visit," etiquette expert Myka Meier once told Reader's Digest.

But even though members of the royal family are not always expected to be fluent in their host country's languages, a few royals have proven themselves to be quite the linguists. Per Lingalot, King Charles speaks about four languages, including French and German, while Prince William reportedly speaks a total of five.

They keep their luggage organized with color codes

To avoid mix ups, the British royals have created a color-coding system for their luggage when traveling. As reported by Hello!, royal luggage is carefully labeled with colors in order to tell aides and assistants where they belong. For example, boxes labeled green will be taken to the hotel, while those tagged yellow are headed for a residence (in the case that they have been invited to stay at a residence). Blue labels, however, mean those specific pieces are required to be accessible on the plane.

A part of the royal's color-coding system also includes using colors to indicate who owns what. According to Express, members of the royal family have different colors assigned to them, to help differentiate each other's luggage. While Queen Elizabeth used (and Kate Middleton still uses) yellow tags, King Charles and Prince William use red. Other members, like Prince George and Princess Anne, are assigned blue and green tags, respectively.

The British royals travel with their own blood bank

You might go on trips and vacations without anticipating medical emergencies, but for the royals, this is a big part of their travel plans, so much so that they go around with their own bags of blood. "The Queen always travels with a supply of blood which is placed in the responsibility of whichever doctor is on duty and accompanies her on duties and Royal tours," royal editor Adam Helliker explained, per The Sun. "This means that in a country where speedy access to a reliable blood supply cannot be guaranteed, such as remote parts of Africa, the sovereign and her consort will be able to receive blood transfusions if they were required for a medical emergency."

Helliker also explained that the queen's blood bank was made up of only her blood, which she would have voluntarily donated in the months leading up to her trip. "The difference being that she will be the only recipient if it's ever needed — that 'blue blood' will never find its way to an ordinary patient," he added. 

According to Yahoo! Lifestyle, King Charles and Prince William also travel with their own blood bags, in the case that they need it while away. This, according to the outlet, is most likely in a bid to keep the line of succession running.

Security and entourages are a must

Does a royal ever go anywhere without an entourage? Not very often. When traveling, members of the royal family are usually accompanied by a retinue, though the number of personnel comprising the group varies from royal to royal. As reported by Express in 2017, Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, had an entourage with as many as 34 people, including (per The Telegraph), "staff from the Master of the Household department, to oversee catering and logistics, her private secretary and his deputy, a secretary for each of those secretaries, [and] two secretaries for the Duke." The team also consisted of dressers, two ladies-in waiting for the queen, the foreign secretary, a hairdresser, press officers, and bodyguards. 

Other royals, however, like Prince William and Kate Middleton, have fewer people accompanying them on their trips. According to E! News, the couple rely on a team of up to 12 people, which consists of a personal stylist, a hairdresser, a nanny for their children, and their private secretaries and their press secretaries. Per Bustle, before stepping down as senior members of the royal family, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, had an 11-person entourage reminiscent of William and Kate's team.

Royals travel commercial, too

Not what you would expect, but yes, even the British royals fly on public planes. As reported by The Mirror, senior members of the British royal family have no problem traveling on commercial planes, albeit they favor British Airways, allegedly because it carries the United Kingdom's flag. Before their memorable wedding ceremony in 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle famously flew economy class on British Airways from the U.K. to France. "They sat at the back," a source told People. "It was the morning flight from Heathrow. I guess they did it so that they could get on and off separately." Ahead of their U.S. tour in December 2022, the Prince and Princess of Wales flew first class from London to Boston on a British Airways flight, with members of the crew reportedly dubbing them "utterly delightful," per the Daily Mail.

One person you would not catch on a commercial plane, however, is the reigning monarch. According to The Mirror, the queen mostly traveled on chartered British Airways planes for her international official duties. Presumably, given his new status as monarch, King Charles will no longer be allowed to fly commercial, either, as he did in the past.

They are required to make only short visits to tourist locations

On the outside, being a member of the royal family seems like a dream. But in reality, things are not as glamorous as they seem. This is because — despite their many travel destinations — senior royals are not allowed to sightsee as much as you might think. "Touring the world meeting heads of state and being shown cultural treasures sounds like a wonderful life," former royal reporter Gordon Rayner told The Telegraph. "Yet I have no envy for the royal family. Their visits to world-famous sites rarely last more than 40 minutes."

But even if they are not allowed to have too much fun, a few royals apparently know how to have a good time, albeit in private. According to Express, while his mother Queen Elizabeth was monarch, King Charles and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles traveled with their own bag of alcohol, to avoid downing contaminated or spiked drinks. "Their police bodyguard will discreetly carry a bag of their drinks — gin and tonic for him and red wine for her," a source revealed, per the outlet.